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Community Partnerships Benefit Area Youth

article posted 03/31/2014

For nearly two decades, the Boys & Girls Club of the Monroe Area has been serving youth in our region by improving academic success, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and building good character and citizenship. Unfortunately, since the economic downturn began in 2008, raising the funds necessary to accomplish these goals has been a struggle for the Club, resulting in a reduction in donations and volunteers. Recently, Hiwassee College has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to make reaching these goals easier. Hiwassee has assisted The Boys & Girls Club in relocating to their college campus.

"Community partnerships and collaboration are key ingredients to any successful venture, particularly in a small community, and especially during tough economic times," said Dr. Anthony Tricoli, president/CEO of the Boys & Girls Club. "In addition, a wonderful couple saw the potential for success in our youth and volunteered to financially support these efforts for the benefit of our kids."

The Boys & Girls Club leaders sees many benefits from this partnership.

"The teens really love this new location and are ecstatic about having access to the college library, the computer lab, the swimming pool, and three large spaces in Rymer Hall, not to mention the beautiful 400 acres upon which the college is situated."

But there is more to the story than just a relocation- there are young lives that will forever be impacted by the club, like 13-year-old, Maddie Taylor.

Maddie's Story

Madison "Maddie" Taylor, the youngest of three children, loves being a new member of the Teen Center at Hiwassee College. She just turned 13 a few months ago and moved up from the Madisonville Unit of the Boys & Girls Club, located at the in Madisonville Middle School, to the Teen Center.

Four years ago, Maddie and her family moved to Monroe County, but without growing up here, she didn't have many friends yet, so she decided to join the club. 

"I'm fairly social, but I didn't know anyone in the area. The club helped me meet kids who liked the same things I did, like playing soccer and tennis and even learn Spanish."

The club didn't just provide a pool of friends that Maddie was hoping to meet, but also helped her academically. Maddie expressed great satisfaction with the help she receives from Ms. Judy, the new unit director of the Boys & Girls Club's Teen Center, on her homework. 

"Ms. Judy really challenges and pushes me to do my best," said Maddie. 

Her work at the Club is paying off and bringing great dividends for Maddie, who is now making straight A's, and she even received a "Gold Card" for academic achievement! Maddie is happy that she's getting the homework help she needs at the Teen Center to keep her grades up. 

"I feel close with Ms. Judy," said Maddie.  "I can depend upon her both inside and outside of the club…she's like a second mom to me. My mom and dad like the club because they know it is a safe place for me to be after school, and they know I'm going to be with good kids until they come and get me after work. The Boys & Girls Club is a great place for me."

When asked about the Teen Center being located at Hiwassee College, Maddie said, "I really like that the Teen Center is located at the college. I love the feel of being on a college campus."

Her goal is to go to college to be in the medical field. Maddie said, "I want to focus my degree on some type of work studying about various types of diseases, so I can help others."

These are the types of aspirations that the Boys & Girls Club wants to support.

Judy Carson, "Ms. Judy," as she is affectionately known by members, spent several years learning the business while she worked as assistant director at the Madisonville unit. 

"I believe moving the Teen Center to the college was brilliant. These kids are starting to see their future develop through the eyes of college students. They may not have been interested in attending a college in the past, but that not the case today!"

As for Maddie, Carson expressed, "She is a sweet young lady with tons of potential, and we are developing that potential right here at our Teen Center. I have encouraged her to consider starting a Keystone Club Charter for our new center." 

The Keystone Club focuses on involvement in community service and building character and leadership among all of the members of the Club. "I think Maddie will do it," Carson said.

Moving the Club to the Next Level

Maddie is one of the many youth affected by the transition of the Teen Center to Hiwassee College, and the Boys & Girls Club is ready to move the club to the next level. 

"We were very fortunate to have had our former space provided to us at no cost. This certainly helped us to get the Teen Center off to a good start. The new space will enable our teens to start a community garden, participate in day hikes, and help our members to think more about continuing their education beyond high school. The college has agreed to provide our young people with guest speakers on a variety of topics which will further help us to meet the major goals and programs of our Club. I am most excited about the opportunity to connect our young people with college students on Service Learning and Civic Engagement projects over the summer and throughout the school year," said Dr. Tricoli.

Not many Boys & Girls Clubs across the country have centers located on a college campus. But now, thanks to this wonderful community partnership between the College and the Club (and a couple of extraordinary donors), Monroe County is now among the top few communities in the nation who can boast about such a partnership.

Interested in helping? Consider attending the Boys & Girls Club 15th Annual Benefit Auction and Celebration to be held at 6 p.m. on April 12. at Tellico West Conference Center. To purchase tickets, call 423-442-6770. You may also pick up your tickets for the Auction at Citizen's National Bank in Athens, Sweetwater, Madisonville and Vonore, or at People's Bank in Madisonville or Vonore.

Can't make the Auction but still want to help support the efforts of the Boys & Girls Club to change the lives of our local children and teens? Just give Dr. Tricoli a call at 423-442-6770. We know he'd love to hear from you!